Jury fails to reach verdict in Neal trial

Published on Wednesday, 7 May 2014 00:31 - Written by Staff and KYTX CBS19 Reports




A man’s fate hung in the balance as the jury did not reach a verdict as of press time in the trial for the February 2013 slaying of Chris Mass in the Broadway Square Mall parking lot.

The jury failed to reach a verdict after deliberating for almost seven hours on Ricky Neal Jr.’s guilt or innocence Tuesday evening.

A jury petitioned the court for more time, and the court ordered the names and phone numbers of people who could bring jurors a change of clothes.

If the jury reaches a verdict early today, the sentencing likely will be later today.

The case was tried in the 7th District Court with The Honorable Kerry Russell presiding.

Neal is charged with first-degree felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony.

Jurors heard four days of testimony preceding deliberations.

During the trial, John Dews testified that Neal approached him at the mall, and the two got into a verbal argument. He said Neal egged him to come outside the mall to fight, so he followed Neal and was followed by Chris Mass and another man.

Dews said Neal asked if the two were going to jump him, and Dews said he replied that he was there to fight. Neal then grabbed a gun and pointed it at Mass, Dews testified.

“I told him it wasn’t that kind of party and started back from Neal, but he started shooting,” Dews said. “I saw Chris fall, and I just started running toward the vehicles at the main entrance.”

Tamara Norris, Neal’s girlfriend of four years, testified she was with him the morning of the shooting.

Ms. Norris said she drove with Neal to the mall, and Neal went inside to buy some shoes, but came back out about five minutes later. 

“He handed me a debit card and told me to go get the shoes,” she said.

Ms. Norris said Neal seemed upset, like something happened inside, but didn’t know what upset him.

Ms. Norris said as she walked toward the mall, she saw two men approach, Jonathan Dews and Chris Mass — whom she said she had never met before. 

She testified they began arguing with Neal, and then she heard a gun cocked, so she ran.

She heard gunshots and saw Mass on the ground bleeding and gasping for air when she turned around. She testified she didn’t see who pulled the trigger.

Jonathan Fontenot, mall security guard, testified he received a call that morning from an anonymous woman about a fight breaking out at Champs, where Neal, Mass, Dews and Whit were that morning. 

They already were in the parking lot when he got there. He heard gunshots and ran outside, and saw Neal standing near Mass’s body, talking on the phone. 

“He was calm. He wasn’t running. He didn’t seem angry,” Fontentot said.

Dr. Allison Edgecomb, who performed the autopsy on Chris Mass testified Mass suffered four gunshot wounds: one to the face, one to the neck and two to the chest. She testified that one bullet went into his left cheek. The bullet to his neck had an entrance and exit wound, and only damaged muscle tissue, not internal organs. The two wounds in his left chest caused his lungs to fill with blood.

Dr. Edgecomb said she could not determine how far away the shooter was standing from Mass, but said Mass was facing the shooter. 

Detective Shine, with the Tyler Police Department, testified Neal admitted to shooting Mass in an interview, and thought he shot Mass twice.

In the interview, Shine said Neal said no force was used against him, and he was never threatened by any of the men, including Mass and Dews, and he never saw a weapon on any of the other men. Neal also said he didn’t know Mass multiple times.

Shine said Neal’s explanation for shooting Mass was that he didn’t know if Mass could have gotten a weapon out of his open car at the time.

Shine confirmed detectives never found a weapon in Mass’ car or on his body.

Thad Davidson represented Neal, and Jeff Wood prosecuted the case.


Faith Harper contributed to this report.